Andre Dillard

Eagles appear to bench Andre Dillard to start second half

Eagles appear to bench Andre Dillard to start second half

It appears that Eagles rookie Andre Dillard has been benched for the second half against the Seahawks.

To begin the third quarter, Dillard was standing on the sideline as Halapoulivaati Vaitai came in to play right tackle. The Eagles hadn’t announced an injury. Dillard spent the last week trying to learn how to play right tackle and it didn’t go so well early.

Remember, Lane Johnson was ruled out for this game with a concussion and then Brandon Brooks left in the first quarter with an illness.

Now, the Eagles’ OL looks like this:

LT: Jason Peters
LG: Isaac Seumalo
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Matt Pryor
RT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Dillard is the only healthy offensive lineman on the sideline right now.

On Friday, Dillard said that learning to play right tackle after only ever playing left was like trying to write an essay with his non-dominant hand. Perhaps the Eagles should have spent more time during the summer and the season cross-training Dillard, but his role this season had been to be Peters’ backup and eventual replacement. Dillard was in a tough spot this week.

The Eagles’ offense, without several starters, hasn’t looked good this afternoon.

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A dubious distinction for Nelly and more in Roob's Random Eagles Points!

A dubious distinction for Nelly and more in Roob's Random Eagles Points!

Jordan Howard vs. Jay Ajayi. A dubious distinction for Nelly. A remarkable approaching milestone for Zach Ertz.

We’ve got a little bit of everything in this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Points!

1. Maybe the biggest decision the Eagles will have to make this offseason is what to do with Alshon Jeffery. Much has been made about the massive cap hit — $26 million — the Eagles would have to absorb if they release him. The cap is going to go way up, but that’s an insane amount of dead money. Based on his injuries and production it’s going to be virtually impossible to trade him. But with everything we’ve seen, I don’t know how you keep him. The Eagles have to reshape that entire position and bringing back one of the two guys who really is most representative of the Eagles’ WR malaise is hard to imagine. Guaranteeing his contract was such a monumental mistake. There was no reason to do it. The Eagles can’t keep him. But I don’t’ know how they can get rid of him. Ball’s in your court, Howie.

2. Here’s an odd one: The Eagles have held three straight opponents to less than 300 yards and 17 or fewer points, and they’ve done it without recording an interception in any of those three games. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1950 and only the second time since 1936.

3. Every time Boston Scott touches the football I think he’s going to fumble.

4. The Jay Ajayi - Jordan Howard situation is a fascinating one. If the Eagles are unable to sign Howard or his price tag gets too high or he simply decides to sign elsewhere this spring, the Eagles can exercise an option in Ajayi’s contract to match any offer he gets on the open market. If they re-up Howard, they would let Ajayi go. But if he’s healthy he’s a good fallback. It’s an interesting call. Ajayi and Howard are both former 5th-round picks, both very good ball carriers, both limited as receivers. Similar ages, similar numbers. Both made a Pro Bowl in their first full season with their previous team. Ajayi is a little more dynamic and explosive, Howard’s more durable, although he’s hurt at the moment. For me, the difference in production is minimal enough and the difference in durability significant enough that I would move forward with Howard. I love Ajayi’s game, I just don’t trust his knees. Will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

5. Zach Ertz has played 101 career games and has 492 catches. If he has eight receptions in the next four games — which he will — he’ll become the second-fastest tight end ever to 500. Kellen Winslow did it in 101 games. Next-fastest are Jimmy Graham (106), Jason Witten (107) and Rob Gronkowski (108).

6. Sunday matchup I’m really curious to see is Seahawks running back Chris Carson vs. the Eagles’ run defense. Carson is on pace for nearly 1,400 rushing yards, and the Eagles are allowing only 86 rushing yards per game — their second-lowest figure in the last 25 years. Pete Carroll wants to run the football. The Seahawks are running 31 times per game, 5th-most in the NFL. The only back to really hurt the Eagles this year has been Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 111 yards. Alexander Mattison of the Vikings (63) is the only other one who’s even reached 45 yards. The Eagles have held Sony Michel, Aaron Jones, Le’Veon Bell and Dalvin Cook under 3.5 yards per carry. Huge challenge Sunday with Carson. Key to the game.

7. Jalen Mills has been off the charts since coming back from his year-long layoff, and if he can keep it up it’s going to be huge for this defense. Over the last five weeks, Mills ranks 3rd among all NFL cornerbacks in opposing completion percentage (50 percent) and 5th in opposing QB passer rating (57.4). Even mediocre cornerback play would have been a dramatic improvement over the slop the Eagles were running out there while he was hurt. Mills is playing the best football of his career. In three games with Mills and Ronald Darby holding it down, the Eagles have been statistically the best pass defense in the league. Now, that includes Josh Allen and Mitch Tribusky but also Tom Brady. But it’s more about the way they’re playing than who they’re playing. Mills and Darby have been aggressive, confident, consistent — all things that were missing — and that’s allowed Jim Schwartz to be much more aggressive as a play caller. The Eagles allowed 10 pass plays longer than 30 yards in their first seven games, just one the last three. No coincidence. Russell Wilson and his WRs will be the biggest challenge of the year for the corners. The way they respond will give us a real good sense of just how far that group has come.

8. Nelson Agholor’s 35.3 career yards per game is second-lowest in NFL history by a first-round wide receiver with at least 60 career starts. Only Darrius Heyward-Bey (33.1) is lower.

9. Going to be interesting to see how Nate Gerry’s role evolves with Nigel Bradham due back Sunday after missing four games with an ankle injury. Gerry has played all but two snaps in these last four games, and that missed tackle on Rex Burkhead not withstanding he’s been solid. Gerry is exactly what Jim Schwartz wants in a linebacker — smart, athletic, fast. Gerry is around the ball and makes plays — two INTs and two sacks so far. He has to tackle more consistently, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Considering he’s a 5th-round pick who was exclusively a special teamer his first two seasons Gerry has come a long way.

10. I would take Andre Dillard with zero experience at right tackle over Big V roughly 100 out of 100 times.

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Andre Dillard's switch from left tackle to right tackle is like trying to write left-handed

Andre Dillard's switch from left tackle to right tackle is like trying to write left-handed

How challenging is it for Andre Dillard to move from left tackle to right?

"Think about it like this," Dillard said. "You probably write with your right hand, right? So all of a sudden, say you had to write a big essay with your left hand. Right now. That's basically it. Write with your left hand. Think about how that would feel."

Dillard, a left tackle since he was 14, will make his first lifetime start at right tackle on Sunday when the Eagles face the Seahawks at the Linc.

Dillard said he's never played right tackle in a game on any level.

"Your brain kind of acts like a muscle in this case," he said. "You do one thing one way for 10 years, like I have, then everything about you is geared toward that. You flip it, your brain's like, 'Oh heck.' But this week's been a good week of preparation."

Dillard replaced injured left tackle Jason Peters in the second quarter of the Vikings game and stayed there through the Bills game, making his first three career starts and playing at a high level. Peters returned for the Patriots, but when right tackle Lane Johnson got hurt in the second quarter, it was Halapoulivaati Vaitai that entered the game at right tackle.

That didn't go so well. The Eagles, up 10-0, didn't score another point.

So Dillard spent this past week practicing at right tackle, and unless Johnson is somehow cleared through concussion protocol before Sunday, the rookie first-round pick will make his first career start on the right side against the Seahawks.

"Anytime you go from left to right side, it's a lot harder than people think," right guard Brandon Brooks said. "Not only are you flipping all the plays completely opposite but the muscle memory, your stance, everything's completely different. I have nothing but faith in Andre Dillard. Everything he's done, busting his ass out there, all the reps, all the extra time I've seen him after practice and stuff? It's different obviously. You don't replace Lane Johnson. He's a one-of-a-kind talent, a one-of-a-kind player. But at the same time, Dillard has more than enough talent. He's more than capable of handling his own out there."

The Eagles went with Vaitai to finish the Patriots game since Dillard hadn't taken any right tackle reps other than "a couple" in training camp and has never played the position.

"In the heat of the game I think Stout (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) for sure felt that Big V had more work on the right side," Jason Kelce said. "Andre, he's a tackle by trade and there's a little bit of a difference and a little bit of balance and body control that you have to get used to going on the right side, but he'll be able to get it done. He's a really athletic kid."

Now Dillard has had a full week of work on the right side, and he said the process of transitioning to a new position will continue up until game time as he watches film, works on his technique and talks to his teammates and coaches.

But so far?

"Smooth as can be," he said after practice Friday. "It's obviously going to be a challenge, but I'm up for it. I'm perfectly capable."

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